Chosen charity for 2019-21

Chordiality is pleased to announce that its current adopted community organisation is the Bradford Baby Bank.

It’s never easy for new parents. A new baby or young family make their demands and finding those everyday items can be difficult for any family… but more so for a family experiencing financial difficulties.

Like all areas of the UK, growing numbers of young families in Bradford can find themselves fighting against poverty. Now, a local organisation is working to support these vulnerable families by helping the frontline services that witness the difficulties faced by new parents every day.

The Bradford Baby Bank started just over three years ago and is run by four volunteers, Danuta Petrie, Emma Clarke, Helen Goult and the person behind its creation and its overall co-ordinator, Vickie Jubb. As with many voluntary community initiatives, the Bradford Baby Bank found its feet not by design, but by a growing social need faced by many young families… finding the essentials.

The Baby Bank supports vulnerable new parents with essential baby items by recycling donated items, whilst also purchasing those items that, for health and safety reasons, cannot be passed on. 

Although it has established itself as an essential lifeline for many young families, the organisation works entirely with local support services on a referral-led basis, in order to avoid any data protection issues and to ensure their donations reach the people who actually need their help.

Support agencies and organisations, such as the British Red Cross and the Salvation Army, alongside social workers, health visitors and other small charities, will approach the Baby Bank team to request items such as baby clothes, high chairs, stair gates, mattresses, Moses baskets, cots, baby baths, fireguards, soft toys as well as the basics like nappies, toiletries and baby milk.

Safety is a prime issue for the Baby Bank and anything donated that is second-hand and which, for safety reasons cannot be passed on, is given to other organisations who may be able to repair the item for reuse.

“People are so generous when responding to our requests,” says Vickie. “We receive a lot of donations through requests on our Facebook page, particularly for things like clothes, prams and toys.

“The difficulty is raising funds for products that we cannot give out second-hand. For example, we would never give out second-hand cot mattresses or safety gates. We have always followed the advice of West Yorkshire Trade Standards,” she added.

Vickie is an educational psychologist with Bradford Council, but strictly divides her day job from her charity work and only engages with the Baby Bank on her days off, “to combine the two would be unprofessional and blurs the lines”. However, it was encountering poverty on a day-to-day basis that spurred Vickie to help.

Like most ventures, the Bradford Baby Bank started small. Vickie, a mother of three herself, would be given school uniforms to pass on to others and things grew from there. The idea gathered pace and her efforts became known as a ready means of support for agencies and charities in the area. 

Vickie quickly realised that she desperately needed to find a structure to the process, not least because in the beginning the clothes and goods donated were stored in her own garage. She also realised that she needed more hands on board and fortunately three friends, Danuta, Emma and Helen stepped forward and the four have soldiered on ever since.

Danuta Petrie has enjoyed a long career working in children’s centres in Bradford and had gained a good knowledge of the various local referral agencies. Alongside Vickie, she delivers the donated goods, particularly clothes, to children’s centres and schools. In her day job, Emma Clarke is Environment Manager for Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust and she uses that expertise to help the charity to explore the options in terms of recycling and upcycling. She also applies for grants and prepares bids for funding alongside Helen Goult, who is also an educational psychologist. Like Vickie, the three women undertake the work in their spare time.

Premises are in issue for the Baby Bank. Though storage space is freely offered, and greatly appreciated, by children’s bed and toy shop Rainbow Wood in Bingley, UnLtd, a charity supporting social enterprises, and Tesco’s supermarket on Canal Road, Bradford, the team are hoping to find their own premises where referring agencies can call and collect donations direct. 

More volunteers, to help deliver the items and meet the growing demand for its services, is also on Vickie’s wish list. Though currently, a small group of student midwives are providing valuable volunteer support.

“For vulnerable parents, poverty can materialise very quickly, sometimes in less than four to six weeks, and this is not always of the families making because other factors can take over,” says Vickie. 

“The impact of poverty and the stress and anxiety, particularly for mums, can be horrendous. It can be as simple as a family not having the money to buy everyday items or food. Sometimes, there can be other issues as well. But overall, we strive to keep families together, because at the end of the day, it’s the children that really matter.”